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What would you do if your doctor prescribed a medication that made your life better, but you couldn’t afford it? This is not a hypothetical question. Many people are caught in that kind of double-bind, like one reader who needs a pricey interstitial cystitis drug.

Will the Interstitial Cystitis Drug Be Cheaper in Canada?

Q. I take a prescription called Elmiron. My current health insurance company will not pay for this interstitial cystitis drug until I have reached a $6,500 deductible.

The pharmacy says I’d have to pay over $1,000 per month for my prescription. I would like to try ordering from Canada but I do not know which pharmacies are legitimate. Can you help?

A. Pentosan polysulfate (Elmiron) is used to ease the discomfort of interstitial cystitis. This condition causes urinary urgency, frequent urination and pelvic pain.

Elmiron costs about a third as much in Canada as in the U.S. That’s still pricey, but substantially less than $1000 a month.

Finding a Canadian Online Pharmacy:

To help you find a reputable Canadian pharmacy, we are sending you a link to our online resource, Saving Money on Medicines. Access to this Guide can be purchased at, and would all be able to supply your medicine.

Buying from Canada Does Not Count Towards Deductible:

Keep in mind that anything you purchase from a Canadian pharmacy will not count towards your deductible. Although the FDA does not approve of drug imports from abroad, Customs rarely interferes with purchases for personal use.

The Doughnut Hole Is Like a Deductible:

Several years ago, a reader sent us this question:

Q. Could you please tell me if there are reputable Canadian drug companies? Our medical bills are destroying us financially!

A. You are not alone. A lot of people are feeling the pinch of a bad economy. Many older people are about to fall into the dreaded Medicare doughnut hole, in which they must pay 100 percent of drug bills out of their own pockets until expenditures exceed $4,950 in 2017.

For someone on a limited budget, going from a $10 copay to $120 for a prescription is shocking. We are sending you our Guide to Saving Money on Medicine with a list of reliable Canadian drug stores that accept prescriptions from the U.S. We also discuss how to use generic drugs safely.

In response, we had a question about whether cost-saving purchases from Canadian drugstores qualify for Part D Medicare, the part of Medicare that helps older people afford their prescription drugs. Buying from Canadian drugstores may save money, but it won’t count towards getting through the doughnut hole. Once seniors meet that deductible amount, Part D does provide substantial assistance on drug costs.

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  1. Maria
    Miami (FL)

    Yes Of-course, I was using Elmiron100 mg. It cost $800 for 90 capsules at CVS Pharmacy but after few days, I switched to Canadian Pharmacy and generic cost $199 for the same medication. I have checked other medication on the website and found that most of the drug cost is 4X lesser than local pharmacy. Now, It has been 6 months of using and I have saved $ 3500 for last 6 months.
    I recommend Canadian pharmacy to all but Pharmacy checker listed online pharmacy only.

  2. Alice W

    My own physician, who is from Canada, advised me to get my drugs from Canada. My Spiriva in the US costs me over $900 for a three month supply..From my pharmacy, I pay less than $300 for a three month supply and it is sourced from the UK, same pharmaceutical company as we get here. I have been doing this for a number of years and have always been pleased with their service. Also you can go to Canada and see a Dr. there and they have to write the RX for you, but it is still cheaper than in the US.

  3. Lolly

    I and several of my friends have successfully used D-mannose for bladder infections. It’s definitely worth a try; if it works for you, maybe you can forego the antibiotics at least!

  4. Pat

    I use dried whole leaf aloe vera from Dessert Harvest to control my Interstitial Cystitis. It is a lot less than prescription meds and is very effective. I talked to my Urologist about it and he has even recommended it to some of his patients that meds did not help. It takes a little time for it to start to work but I have used it for over 10 years and very rarely have a flare.

  5. June

    Those prices were per month

  6. June

    My husband took Elmiron for about a year, our cost was $300 but it was early in his diagnosis and he was very sick so we paid it. About a year later after lots of diet changes and meds he improved and he changed jobs, the new price for Elmiron was $3000 so he stopped taking it and did not miss it? So we don’t really know if it helped?

  7. Lynne

    Please tell this person that there is assistance from either the drug company, Janssen, or an assistance fund. These are available for many high cost meds.

    Here’s Janssen’s:

    Here’s an assistance fund I found:

    Anytime there’s a medicine which is outrageously priced, there’s help. The pharmaceutical companies want you to buy their medicine and will assist you (or a fund will) until your deductible (or donut hole) has been met. There will be a little information gathering, including income, but you’ll get the $$$ help you need!

    Best wishes and please let others know!

  8. Jeanne S

    My mother had interstitial cystitis for 15 years. She had many procedures done including a DMSO wash of her bladder. She suffered with terrible pain and inflammation for years. I finally convinced her to quit using fake substitute sugars as I knew of several people who suffered nerve inflammation in various parts of the body from the use of these sugar substitutes.

    Her bladder problems completely went away after discontinuing the use of sugar substitutes. She had been diagnosed with fibra myalgia which caused her over all body pain and aches, also. That, too, disappeared.

  9. Helen B

    We need to hold drug companies accountable for the outrageous prices…they can’t make enough money. sad is that! It’s called GREED. I FEEL BAD FOR PEOPLE THAT NEED DRUGS FOR CANCER, HIV, HEART AND SO ON..YOU DONT HAVE A CHANCE FOR A DECENT EXISTENCE. ..THAT IS SHAMEFUL IN A COUNTRY LIKE OURS………NEED TO have EVERYONE HAVE SAME HEALTH CARE,,,INCLUDING GOVERNMENT politicians nationwide, boy things would change fast. Shame on us!

  10. Diane

    Armour thyroid is a very inexpensive medicine to make. My co-pays had been $5 or $10/month until my insurance company (which recently went with a Caremark to manage prescriptions…which is related to CVS pharmacy) decided that everyone who is hypothyroid needs to be on Synthroid, a synthetic version of thyroid medicine that is not as complex as Armour thyroid.

    The two drugs are NOT the same. So I could get Synthroid like my insurance company wants me to for a $20 co-pay, but I need the more complex Armour thyroid so I must pay $90 a co-pay :( I’ve written letters to the insurance but they landed upon deaf ears :( I am thankful that I only take one prescription and am in not financial ruin from needing life-saving prescriptions like so many I hear about.

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